And the Tree Grows On…

Yesterday, I returned from my lunch hour 15 to 20 minutes late. I was met by a chorus of concerned coworkers. No one was upset I was late, but they worried about me “all alone in the big bad city.” I was immediately warmed by their jokes and concerns. I felt valued, worthy, loved, validated and like I mattered. And then my mood took a turn.

Sadly, when I got over the initial warm and fuzzies of being greeted with such sincere concern and caring, I felt lost. I didn’t know how to process it because on some deeper level I couldn’t understand it. Instead of being appreciative and holding it up as baseline human decency, I began to question what I did to deserve it. Without warning, I had fallen back into the Tara of months ago. And, for the first time, I felt the depth of the damage. I felt how spending a year of second guessing my value, my sanity, my personality, my ability, and whether or not I am the emotionally maturing human being I strive to become has hollowed me.

I believed I was toxic and that I deserved to be a whipping girl. I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that a woman like me would never be anything more than the incessantly annoying street scum on the bottom of his shoe that had to be addressed now and again to keep up appearances. And when I wasn’t feeling that way, I believed it was simply a matter of hardening my heart, adopting an air of aloofness, and dismissing my abuser as unworthy.  In a sense, I was becoming my abuser to escape the abuse.

And now, once again and triggered by an event that should have remained warm and fuzzy, I felt the positive attention was undeserved. I also felt like a failure because I had convinced myself that if I just tried harder, I’d uncover what I had done to deserve the way I was being treated, fix it, and the person I trusted and admired unconditionally would return in place of the one that now so deeply loathed me. It didn’t matter that I had snapped out of it and gotten over the shame, the feelings of loyalty, and a deeply held sense that I owed him something and reached out to people around me and changed my situation. It didn’t matter because just as I was beginning to feel like myself, there would be one more incident to compound all others. It would be one more opportunity to be ignored, to be dismissed, and to understand that I never mattered and never would. And I wondered if I’d always feel that way.

But I did get out and yesterday happened. I kept it together enough to get through the day. But I spent the commute in fits of tears. Why? What did I ever do to deserve to be treated so heinously? And why didn’t I deserve an apology? How fair is it that this person will never take any responsibility for their actions? That they’re incapable of understanding the effect of their actions on others? Over and over again, those same questions. It was unfair, it will always be unfair, it could have been worse and that’s just life. All of it. I stayed in that mind frame as I went on about my night.  I felt slightly better after I had an actual meal but I cried a bit more out of helplessness as I finally made my way home.

Today, the damage doesn’t seem so immense. Last night I dreamed that I had acquiesced and agreed to join a church. As I walked around I encountered my family and friends from various circles. I snagged one of them and asked to see the tree. Rumors of a “sacred” tree were the only reason I’d shown up to begin with. She took me through some corridors and down onto the landing of the large spiral basement staircase. There, in the center of the staircase was a pine tree. It was tall, disappearing into the darkness of ceiling and the trunk was thick and gnarly. It didn’t have many limbs. The limbs it did have stretched the length of the basement and were covered sporadically in thick, chunky bouquets of pine needles. And the church choir, filled with my new coworkers, was gathered around the base for practice. ‘It isn’t what I expected,’ I thought to myself, ‘but it is beautiful in its own special way and remarkable that it can continue to grow beneath the weight of the building and without the sun.’ As drove into work this morning, all I could think about was that tree and that it had to be the singing from the choir that kept it growing.

Old dog?

Recently, I was offended by a passively racist comment. The comment was amplified by the fact that I felt that not only had my abilities to produce in the situation that provoked the comment been stifled to protect the ego of a bigot, but that the inaction that created this situation was an act of disloyalty. In other words, if the offender had gone to bat for me against a bigot in the first place, they would have had no reason to make their passively bigoted comments.

The loyalty issue is moot at this point. I understand now that loyalty requires emotional capabilities that, in some, are non-existent, severely underdeveloped, or reserved only for their codependent. It’s futile to pine for something that never existed, but necessary to understand this dynamic as it pertains to racism.

Alas, I was told that the protected bigot would have agreed with the offending comment and gone about their day entirely unaffected (subtext: follow the bigot’s example from now on; be a bigot, not a black woman). It gets worse. Indeed, I was punched in the gut with the most cutting, deeply offensive version of the asshole’s free pass (I’m not responsible for your feelings, you are), I have ever encountered.

‘In all the therapy you do, you need to talk about why you’re so offended by racism and fix it.’

This is not an exact quote, but pretty fucking close. When I went back for clarification and asked if I understood correctly that I was being told that I, a black woman, was offended not because I had a right to be offended when someone makes a racist comment, but because I have emotional issues that I need to work out with my therapist, the claim was vehemently affirmed.

It lingers so much that even now, a few days later, I’m hit by waves of nausea just thinking about it. It’s worse than the insinuation that I should follow a bigot’s example. It felt worse, emotionally, than being called a primate by a drunk stranger. I knew going in to the conversation that it would somehow be my fault because in this particular relationship, I’ve gotten used to being the bad guy.

The thing is that now, at a time when racists like Donald Trump are making blatant, hateful expressions of racism acceptable, I refuse to take the blame for someone else’s passive racism. Or, as one of my favorite drag queens says: Not today, Satan. Not today.

When I’m told that I’m the one who needs therapy to ‘get over it,’ I can’t be sympathetic because one was ‘raised that way’ and ‘it’s hard to get out of that mentality.’ Nor do I accept “I am who I am and I’m not changing for anybody” as anything other than what it really articulates: everyone else can go to hell whilst I enjoy the privilege of saying, doing, and behaving however I want.   Or, as Donald Trump recently said via FOX News to the supporters who didn’t like him pretending to care about ‘his blacks,’ “Get over it.”

But, Donald Trump and my offender are narcissists. They represent an extreme. They can’t help who they are and lack, for whatever reason, the capability to contemplate the how their actions affect others beyond how they can get what they want for themselves from these ‘others’ and ‘those people’ and then, and most importantly, to internalize those lessons, modify their behavior and mature as human being. Sadly, their growth game is shallow.

But what about the rest of the world? What about the rest of these Trump followers? How can they claim that they are not racist? How can they claim that Black History Month, the Black Lives Matters movement and BET are racist when they represent a tiny fraction of a much larger hegemony? How can so many people in one of the top nations on the planet be so emotionally and intellectually stunted?

Again we come back to ‘being raised that way.’ But it’s more intrinsic than that, it’s the about the that thing that narcissists and racists and hypocrites only recognize in themselves: subjectivity.

Racism, like narcissism, is never objective. It isn’t objective to those who experience it because the hatred resonates and reverberates in even the most intimate aspects of individuality. It isn’t objective to those who perpetrate it because they’re reinforcing and feeding off of deeply ingrained power dynamics. And it isn’t objective to anyone on the middle of that spectrum because the media, liberal and FAUX, is woven out of stereotypes, cultural fallacies, and cultural fantasies. Racism is a human phenomenon, an unnatural order of things that has permeated our existence and dyed itself into our societal DNA. And, unfortunately, as a species, many of us choose to adopt the safe, comfortable, painless way of life of that is “I am what I am.” The rest of us wave a dismissive hand and continue to fight the fight from all the wrong directions.

To that mentality, I chose to say:

Shadow Slayer

We were, even then, an odd pairing. The ne’er do well with so much potential and the tightly-wound budding intellectual. Both angsting in our own ways; echoing secrets down the mysterious corridors of our inexplicable loyalty. You desired my approval and I, to be your object of desire.

We’ve played this way for over a decade; a long, slow game of tag. And suddenly it’s different now. We’re different now. You are different. The potential I felt, first before anything and anyone, has begun to slay shadows (and still: hearts). It stirs within me something new. Indescribable. Something that runs deeper than loyalty. Not binding, but melding. You are my first…exercise of faith.

 

Hello world!

I have heretofore avoided revisiting the blogosphere because I noticed years ago that I had a tendency to post things about which even I didn’t give a damn.  Now, I have facebook for that crap.  And I’m older.  And I care about things outside of myself (some of the time).  So, we’ll see what comes of this.